Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse responds to allegations of inappropriate behavior at UMass

Political News

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a statement on the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with teenage students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Morse shared his statement on the past 48 hours via social media Sunday night. In part he said, “I have never used my position of power as Mayor and UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students.”

Morse continued to say he has never violated UMass policy. He also announced in the two page statement that he is continuing his congressional campaign.

You can read his full statement here:

I announced my candidacy for Congress because I believed our country needed leadership that understood the urgency of this moment. I believed that the voters of the First Congressional District deserved a member of Congress who would put their interests before those of wealthy and influential donors. I believed that the health of our democracy relied on envisioning a new kind of politics – a politics of lifting up and empowering ordinary people.

I still believe these things. If anything, my time as a candidate has only deepened my conviction that people are looking for a politics that is more generous, more open, and more just. I’ve heard stories from people in every corner of this district that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Our campaign is fueled by the hard work and dedication of my amazing staff and volunteers and the contributions of small grassroots donors. Our campaign is also lifted up by the support of progressive organizations that helped take our efforts to new heights. I remain committed to their missions, but also understand the toll that recent events are taking on them and their supporters.

Over the weekend, the Daily Collegian published a story that alleged that I abused my power in having consensual sexual encounters with college students, and that I made other college students feel uncomfortable by conversing with them on social media.

I want to be very clear about this. I have never, in my entire life, had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone. I have never used my position of power as Mayor and UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students. I have never violated UMass policy. Any claim to the contrary is false. As I’ve acknowledged, I have had consensual relationships with other men, including students enrolled at local universities that I’ve met using dating apps.

While I am confident that a full investigation into these matters will clear my name completely of any unethical conduct, I also recognize that some students felt uncomfortable with interactions they had with me. I am sorry for that. This is unacceptable behavior for anyone with institutional power. Further, for the past few years, there has been an important conversation underway in this country about power dynamics in romantic or sexual relationships. This conversation is long overdue — and while I never used my power in a problematic way, I understand why the issue would be raised. My position and the power that comes with it follow me in every area of my life, and I understand now, in a deeper way, the importance of being sensitive to that fact. I am human. I’m imperfect. But I know who I am and what I stand for.

It’s unfortunate that these allegations came three weeks before the primary, because there isn’t enough time for UMass to conduct an independent review before the people of this district vote on September 1. While I fully believe that I will be cleared after the UMass review is complete, I also believe the students have the right to be heard and for their concerns to be addressed. I am pledging my full support and participation in that process. I stand ready to meet with the University, the students, or any other people affiliated with the review process.

To all my supporters who’ve reached out over these past few days, encouraging me to stick this out, I want you to know I hear you. Your support means the world to me. And to the many members of the queer community that have reached out to me in recent days, it’s clear that many of you feel that these recent events, and the language used in response, aren’t just an attack on me, but on all of us. You’re genuinely outraged, as I am, by the invocation of age-old anti-gay stereotypes. You have reminded me that we’ve come too far to turn back. I want my freedom, and I want you to have yours, too.

I continue this campaign mindful of the fact that my personal life — and my consensual sexual activity — will be subject to scrutiny and fixation that are all too familiar to other members of the LGBTQ community. I am also mindful of the fact that there are people holding onto power today who themselves have acted in dishonorable ways in their personal lives. I say this not to shirk responsibility for having made anyone uncomfortable. I am simply highlighting the fact that I am being held to a different standard, one deeply connected to a history of surveilling the sex lives of people like me.

Too often, elections aren’t about issues and ideas; they’re about personal destruction. As I move forward, I vow to keep speaking up for the cause on which this campaign was built: the cause of building a true and just democracy in this country. Because, long after this story has faded and the election cycle is behind us, working people in this district and around the country still need a government that looks out for them. That’s who I got in this race for, and that’s who I will keep fighting for. This was never going to be an easy path. Moving forward, I commit to continuing the debate and focusing on the issues that matter most to voters in the district.

While I am staying in the race, I also fully understand that some of my supporters and endorsers have legitimate concerns about these allegations, and I understand if they feel they need to rescind their support. I am officially releasing any endorsers who feel it is in their interests to no longer support my campaign. For my part, I intend to take our campaign’s progressive, inclusive message to the voters of the First District. I look forward to seeing Congressman Neal on the debate stage next week.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse

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